At least 95 dead in day of carnage in Baghdad

"Disaster zone" as huge bomb reduces foreign ministry compound to rubble

A series of explosions in Baghdad have killed at least 95 people and injured more than 560 in terrorist attacks which have raised concerns about the fragility of the Iraqi state, as US troops begin to withdraw.

The bombs, which went off yesterday, were directed against the main centres of power, including the parliament and cabinet buildings and the ministries of finance, foreign affairs, health, housing, and education.

The largest bomb went off within 30ft of the Foreign Ministry, flattening the ministry's compound and shaking houses five miles away. Up to 59 people were killed in this attack, and 250 injured.

In a scene which eyewitnesses likened to an air strike, the bomb left a crater in the road 10ft deep and 25ft wide. Cars and buildings in the vicinity were destroyed. The Rasheed Hotel, on the edge of the fortified Green Zone, was also damaged.

Hundreds of people in hospital have been badly wounded by glass flying through the air.

Touring the destroyed Foreign Ministry site, Baghdad's governor, Saber al-Essawi, said: "Any small incident we consider a failure in the work of the Iraqi security forces, but what happened today is not a small violation like a roadside bomb. These are the biggest explosions ever. This area should be declared a disaster zone.

"They were very precisely targeted and well co-ordinated to kill the biggest number of people possible. This was a conspiracy between the regional powers and the disbelievers."

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but it is thought that Sunni extremists are behind the attack, in an attempt to undermine the Shia-led government and revive the sectarian conflict.

The Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said: "These attacks represent a reaction to the opening of streets and bridges and the lifting of barriers inside the residential areas."

The date of the attacks was symbolic, falling on the sixth anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations compound in Baghdad, an attack which killed a UN special envoy and signaled an increase in insurgency.

A rise in attacks since US troops began to pull out of the cities on 30 June has led to fears that violence will increase in the run up to elections, which will be held before January.

Two months ago, the Iraqi government removed blast walls which could have limited the damage, as part of "normalization" after US troops withdrew.